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Salwe on Mindon Min's shirt

Salwe (Burmese: စလွယ်, [səlwɛ̀]) are issues for Burmese orders. A salwe is a shoulder-belt formed with metal chains, normally fashioned in gold or silver, which are fastened in four places, in shields or bosses, and worn over the shoulder like an officer's sash.[1]

The Burmese monarchy used the salwe was purely secular, as it was used to recognize merit and service to the state.[1]

Etymology and origins[edit]

The Burmese language word salwe စလွယ် is a corruption of the Hindi term janeu (जनेऊ).[2] Janeu (also known as upanayana) in Hindi, refers to a sacred investiture or Brahminical cord found in the higher castes of Hindu society.[3]

It is of ancient Burmese origin.[1] The salwe is referenced in the Salwedin Sadan (Book of the Order), a Burmese text that states the number of salwe cords that members of each of the four Hindu varnas wore:

  1. Rulers (Khattiya) - 9 cords[1]
  2. Ritualists (Brahmana) - 6 cords[1]
  3. Merchants (Vessa) - 1-3 cords[1]
  4. Commoners (Sudda) - none[1]


Salwe as seen at the National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka.

The number of strands or threads indicate rank in the order.[1] The salwe was worn as a symbol of high character, to maintain the purity of character of one's family or caste.[1]

During the Konbaung Dynasty, high-ranking ministers with immunity from various forms of execution (thetdawshay) also wore salwe of 18 strands.[1] The following is a list of Konbaung-era grades and corresponding number of salwe strands conferred:

Grades during the Konbaung Dynasty[1]
Grade Number of Strands
King 24
Crown Prince 21
Shan Sawbwas, Princes of the Blood 18
Shan Myosas, other Royal Family Members 15
High-ranking Ministers (Mugyi, Matgyi) 12
Lower-ranking Ministers (Mulat, Matlat, Mu-nge, Matnge) 3-9

Current usage[edit]

The following salwes are currently issued by the Government of Burma:



  • Myanmar–English Dictionary. Myanmar Language Commission. 1993. ISBN 1-881265-47-1.
  • Scott, James George; Hardiman, John Percy (1900). Gazetteer of Upper Burma and the Shan States. 2. Rangoon: Government of Burma.

See also[edit]